Chamber of Commerce   Economic Development

Santa Rita Festival - September 21, 2013


Big Lake celebrates and hosts the Santa Rita Festival each year to commemorate the historic event related to the oil strike that started the Permian Basin Oil Field.

Come join us for a fun day of shopping at the outdoor market, participate in the activities or contests and let the kids play games.

Every year there are always plenty of food vendors and flea market booths located outdoors and inside the community building.

This year’s festival is a work in progress. Please check back for the up-dates and schedule of events to take place.

THE TRUE STORY: The oil rig named Santa Rita #1 was spudded (the equipment setup was completed) shortly before midnight August 17, 1921, the last day before the 18-month drilling permit was to expire.

Progress was slow for driller Carl Cromwell, who also worked as the tool dresser, derrick hand, roustabout, and fireman. Crews, when available, consisted mostly of cowboy roustabouts who disliked the work and were distinguished for high absenteeism and steady turnover.Twenty-one slow-moving months were required to bring the well to production. There were many delays common to cable-tool drilling at the time. The slowness with which essential materials arrived coupled with limited resources of the Texon Company also caused many delays. On more than one occasion, the well was shut down and the crew laid off because money was not available to pay salaries or buy casing and other needed supplies.Several months after drilling began, Frank Pickrell climbed to the top of the derrick. He threw out the petals of a rose that a group of Catholic women investors from New York had given him. Pickrell christened the well in the name of the patron Saint of the Impossible-Santa Rita.On May 25, 1923, oil and gas began to show on the surface. On May 28, 1923, a loud roar was heard and the Santa Rita #1 blew in. The well would continue to head up daily, unloading about 100 bbls. of oil each time. People from surrounding towns as far away as Fort Worth would travel to watch the well blow oil over the derrick.

After a month, casing and a packer finally arrived and the first commercial well in the Permian Basin was put on production.The Santa Rita #1 was eventually found to be on the edge of the reservoir and future wells in the Big Lake Field produced at rates of over 5,000 BOPD per well.

Santa Rita # 1 produced its first gusher on May 28, 1923. The well sprayed oil over a 250-yard area around the site. After producing oil for 67 years, the well in Reagan County, West Texas, was capped in May 1990.  The original rig was moved to the University of Texas at Austin.This has been a short history on the Santa Rita #1.

The information on this well was received from Marathon Oil Company. Both a brochure and information from the Field Foreman was used.